Pat Cox: 'the job will be his if the referendum is passed'

PAT Cox is the front-runner to succeed Charlie McCreevy as EU Commissioner and is expected to be offered the position in the autumn if the Lisbon referendum is passed on 2 October.

"Pat is the obvious choice and the job will be his if the referendum is passed," said one source close to government this weekend.

Several members of cabinet, particularly health minister Mary Harney and transport minister Noel Dempsey, want the prestigious commissioner job, but Taoiseach Brian Cowen will break with tradition by not giving the job to a minister or TD.

The coalition cannot afford to lose another deputy, given the tightness of the numbers in the Dáil, and there is virtually no chance of the government being able to win a by-election in view of its unpopularity.

The appointment of Cox would have several advantages for the government, not least the fact that it would not affect its Dáil majority. As a former president of the European parliament, Cox would be strongly in line for a significant posting in the new commission.

Given his experience and strong pro-European sentiments, his appointment would be a good PR move for a government anxious to rebuild Ireland's reputation in Brussels, which was damaged by our 'no' vote in the first Lisbon referendum.

Cox was also a member of the liberal ELDR group during his time in the European parliament and Fianna Fáil has recently become part of that group.

The only other names being linked to the job are those of Máire Geoghegan Quinn, who was a cabinet colleague of Brian Cowen's under Albert Reynolds, and former taoiseach John Bruton.